MEDIA PROFILE: Pitching Electronic Gaming Monthly requires playingby its rules

As the gaming industry soars, Electronic Gaming Monthly has become a prime PR pitch target. But, finds Robin Londner, if presented products aren't cool, targeted, and exclusive, don't waste their time.

As the gaming industry soars, Electronic Gaming Monthly has become a prime PR pitch target. But, finds Robin Londner, if presented products aren't cool, targeted, and exclusive, don't waste their time.

It's getting closer.

John Davison, editorial director for Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) says it's almost there.

"With each generation of systems, gaming gets closer to that elusive label of 'mainstream entertainment,'

says Davison, explaining that gaming is finally beginning to come into its own. "It's no longer the things that the geeks do, that redheaded stepchild of pop culture."

Because the topic it covers 12 times a year is gaining increasing prominence among more demographics, the magazine has also broadened - its features now look at how gaming has begun to blend into movies and music.

But the latest innovations from Nintendo and Sega are still the morsels most craved by the hungry beast that is EGM. If the story can be exclusive, that just makes the item that much tastier to magazine's 11 editors, who also write the publication.

Dan "Shoe

Hsu, editor of 13-year-old EGM, however, cautions PR people to pitch editors by beat, not by how a story might fit into one of title's three main news sections - Previews, Reviews, and Tricks. Upcoming products are showcased in Previews. Reviews looks at soon-to-be or just-released games. Tricks tells readers the secrets embedded in games, or advice on how to beat difficult levels or adversaries. For example, no matter which of the three sections Nintendo wants to pitch, the PR person would contact the same editor, regardless, because only one person on the entire magazine covers Nintendo as a beat.

A trick for getting into EGM? Exclusives. "When someone pitches us something, it shouldn't be so much of a story idea, but an exclusive to us,

explains Hsu, who says the practice is typical in the gaming business, and that EGM expects material to remain exclusive for one month over other publications.

"What matters to us is what we're getting first, how long until our competition gets it. Then I'll go back and find out what we're getting - artwork, screen shots, or a playable version of the game."

The magazine expects PR people to pitch it two months before the publication date, and EGM does not make its editorial calendar public. Hsu recommends companies that already work with the title to regularly contact their beat reporter to find out about any features. Brand new companies, he says, should contact him directly.

If a company has missed the boat on Previews, and is too late to pitch for a Reviews, which should come out in print just as the game hits stores, a six-month-old column called Afterthoughts, written by news editor Chris Johnson, might be the proper outlet. In Afterthoughts, EGM interviews developers of an already-released game. Coverage depends on the magazine's book size that month, how well a game sold, and how it has been received by the gaming audience.

However, despite his willingness to help PR people understand EGM, Hsu says he hasn't ever heard a pitch that would make him cover something he would not have covered otherwise, and vice versa.

Hugo Reyes, PR manager for video game developer and publisher Namco Hometek, stresses that his relationship with EGM editors is positive and has even led to friendships, but doesn't argue with Hsu's attitude towards PR people.

"It is difficult at times trying to pitch certain games or ideas to them, especially covers,

says Reyes, who adds that EGM has only 12 covers a year during which game manufacturers come out with hundreds of titles.

Most of those titles are geared toward the magazine's main demographic - men in their late teens to early 20s. Davison says EGM keeps up to date on its readers through yearly subscriber reports. He says he expects PR people to know the audience too.

"There's a very broad audience, but at its core is this rabid fan base that will absorb any information you throw at them,

says Davison. "The cool stuff is immediately elevated.

The non-cool stuff is dismissed almost immediately."

Agencies, he explains, often are the worst offenders at pitching decidedly non-cool material. "Agencies will pitch really aggressively and we know it's crap, so we know they must know it is crap,

details Davison. "Tell us, you have two games and one is great and you know the other is no good.

Tell us you know enough to know the good one from the dog, but you want to get the company off your back."

So now, newly armed with knowledge on how to approach EGM, let the PR pitching games begin.

See Market Focus, p. 17.

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